All Articles These Three Influencers Have Made Solo Travel Their Job

These Three Influencers Have Made Solo Travel Their Job

Whether it's canyoning in Da Lat, Vietnam, going for a dip in Iceland's Blue Lagoon, or trekking through Grenada's Grand Etang National Park , these three women have mastered the art of solo travel. Read on for their favorite places and experiences, plus tips for women who are thinking of hitting the road alone.

Lauren Pelkey

Lauren Pelkey has traveled a long way from her Massachusetts hometown. Now based in Bogotá, Colombia, the travel blogger has checked off 29 countries across five continents and continues to save every penny she makes to travel the world on her own terms.

Lauren Pickley in Colombia
Lauren in Colombia

Nice to meet a fellow New Englander! When were you first hit with the travel bug?

Outside a few family resort vacations in Mexico, I actually didn’t grow up traveling. It wasn't until I studied abroad in Rome during my junior year of college that my whole world changed and I vowed to make travel a permanent part of my life.

After three years working at an e-commerce company in Boston, I finally decided to follow my passions of traveling and writing. I secured an Australian working holiday visa, ended the lease on my apartment, quit my job, and boarded a plane to Melbourne with a few suitcases and no plan. I didn't know a single person or have a job or a place to live, but it was absolutely thrilling.

Setting out on your own like that takes guts. What did you learn?

Solo travel allows the type of freedom you can only understand once you've experienced it yourself. Want to admire street art for hours? Go for it. Want to eat at that little bánh mi cart instead of a sit-down restaurant? Go for it. Want to extend your time in a destination or cut it short? Go for that, too! Being able to do whatever you want, whenever you want, without needing someone’s acceptance or permission is an incredibly liberating experience.

It's also allowed me to form relationships I probably wouldn't have made otherwise. When you travel with people you know, you stay in your comfort zone and the likelihood that you’re going to open up and meet new people is pretty slim. Ultimately, you miss out on a huge part of what traveling is about, which is connecting with others from different parts of the world.

Most important of all is that I've learned how to deal with challenging and uncomfortable situations on my own and it's built up my confidence and character. It's amazing what you can learn about your mental strength and your emotions when you don’t have someone else to lean on to fix a problem.

Of all your travels, what places have had the most impact?

Vietnam holds a special place in my heart because it was where my true love for solo travel began. I spent almost a month exploring the markets in Ho Chi Minh City, canyoning in Da Lat, and trying every street food I could possibly stomach. I felt so connected to its people, culture, food, and nature.

Da Lat, Vietnam
Da Lat, Vietnam
Da Lat, Vietnam

After visiting Colombia dozens of times over the past six years, I've been able to have some pretty epic experiences. Right before the pandemic hit, I got to dance in the parade at Carnaval de Barranquilla. I've also hiked to Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City). After four days of intense jungle trekking in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains, crossing raging river rapids, and climbing 1,200 steep stone steps to get to Cuidad Perdida, I truly felt like a character in an Indiana Jones movie.

And it would be impossible not to mention Japan, where I spent two weeks eating my way through Osaka, Kyoto, Mt Fuji, and Tokyo. I’m still dreaming of udon a year later!

And where have you felt the most safe and comfortable?

I have never felt more happy, confident, or safe as a solo female traveler than when I traveled through Southeast Asia. Every country there has its own distinct culture, yet one thing that remained constant was how friendly and helpful the people were.

It's also relatively easy – not to mention extremely affordable – to travel within and between countries in that part of the world. When you don't have a travel partner to split costs with, expenses really start to add up. The quality of life and experiences you can have for such an affordable price makes Southeast Asia a great destination for solo travelers.

What tips do you have for women looking to travel on their own, and any myths you’d like to debunk?

Be prepared and aware, but always keep an open mind to new, unplanned experiences. For me, being prepared means always having enough data on my phone so I can make emergency calls and access maps, having a backup charger in case my phone dies, and using anti-theft backpacks and purses (I recommend Arden Cove) for extra peace of mind while I'm out exploring.

One of the biggest myths about solo travel is that it is unsafe for women. After traveling to ten-plus countries on my own, I am here to say it is not as scary or dangerous as many make it out to be. Believe it or not, more people want to help you on your journey than hurt you. Don't get me wrong – bad things can happen, but the same way bad things can happen in your own hometown. Above all, use common sense and take precautions. Be careful, not fearful.

Grace Lam

Travel has always been a way of life for fashion director Grace Lam. During her career, the former Senior Fashion Editor at Vogue China has lived in Paris, London, Shanghai, Hong Kong, New York, and Perth, Australia, where she currently resides with her husband and son.

Grace Lam
Grace Lam

Tell us about you and what sort of role travel has played in your life.

Travel has been a part of me ever since I was young. My parents loved traveling, and our first family trip was to Tokyo when I was seven. I fell in love with Japan immediately.

While attending boarding school in the U.K., I spent term breaks visiting classmates who lived in Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, and France, and went inter-railing around Europe for a month when I was 16. I especially loved seeing the Berlin Wall and Prague.

the Charles Bridge in Prague
The Charles Bridge, in Prague

At the beginning of my career, I joined i-D Magazine, where I worked as a fashion assistant for Fashion-Director-at-Large Edward Enninful (who is now Editor-In-Chief of British Vogue). We traveled to New York, Paris, Milan, Iceland, and Morocco for fashion shoots, and I continued attending fashion events after I joined Vogue China. When I met my husband Jason, who is Australian, I started visiting Australia more often.

Your passport must be packed! What has traveling – and traveling on your own – taught you?

Travel is so important to see how people live in other countries. You learn how to respect others and their beliefs.

When I was younger and before Theo was born, I took lots of solo trips. I started to really enjoy my own company in my early 20s. One thing I loved most about traveling solo is that I didn’t have to answer to anyone. I could go wherever I wanted at my own pace without having to compromise my plans, which was very liberating.

Some people find it hard to be by themselves, but I think it is important to learn how to be alone. As many have experienced during the pandemic, it’s not easy to overcome loneliness and uncertainty. I encourage everyone to try a solo trip at least once in their lifetime.

You’ve lived everywhere from Shanghai to New York and beyond. Any travel experiences stand out?

The year Jason and I got married, Vogue China sent us to the Cannes Film Festival to shoot two famous Chinese actresses – Fan Bing Bing and Tang Wei. We love movies and it was our first time in Cannes, so although the trip was hectic, it was a dream come true.

blue lagoon, Iceland
Reykyavik,Iceland
From left: Iceland's Blue Lagoon; the city of Reykjavik

Iceland doesn’t get dark at night during the summer, which was very surreal to experience. Reykjavík was especially fun, and the whole team got to jump into the Blue Lagoon on our last day. After a full week of shooting, being able to relax in its geothermal seawater was a great reward.

What advice can you offer for women traveling on their own?

Be street smart, be sensible, and always trust your gut instinct. Even if you’re lost, it’s important not to look scared or timid. Find a safe place and ask for directions. As women, we are more vulnerable and easier targets, so we need to be more aware of our surroundings. As an Asian woman, I feel even more at risk because of the Asian stereotypes that we are quiet and demure. Throughout my years of traveling solo, I’ve trained myself to be more confident, which is essential.

I also encourage others to be brave – you’ll be amazed at what you can discover. Three days into a Mexican holiday with three girlfriends, I found that I wasn’t enjoying myself, so I took off to explore other parts of Tulum and Oaxaca. I had so much fun being my own boss and met lots of solo travelers along the way. It’s always difficult to travel in a group, but you shouldn’t be afraid to speak up or even leave if you’re not having fun.

So is Australia where you plan to stay after the pandemic?

I love Perth. It’s tranquil and calm – a great place to raise children – yet there’s so much to do that I can hardly keep up, from weekend farmers markets to outdoor cinemas, go-kart racing, sailing, and festivals. The new Western Australian Museum just opened. The local food scene is also flourishing so there are lots of stylish restaurants, wine bars, and cafés to choose from. I’m living a healthier lifestyle here and glad to be out of the rat race. Perth is a very underrated city and has so much to offer.

Perth, Australia
food in Perth
chipmunks
City scenes of Perth, Australia

Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon

Miami-based traveler Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon, 54, is many things – a writer, an on-screen host, and a self-described ‘Carivangelist.’ “I love spreading the ‘gospel’ of the Caribbean,” she says, citing her visits to the region among her favorite solo adventures.

Sarah Greeves Gabon
In the Caribbean

So tell us, what is the ‘gospel’ of the Caribbean?

That the Caribbean is a rich and diverse region with so much more to offer visitors than just white-sand beaches and swaying palm trees.

Here's the million-dollar question: Why do you travel solo? What is it about being alone that appeals to you?

Before the pandemic, my trips were a mix of solo jaunts and others taken with fellow content creators. Now, for health reasons, I prefer to travel on my own. Whether I’m on the road for work or pleasure, I think flying solo offers the best of both worlds. You’re free to do what you want, when you want.

If you want company or conversation, that’s easy to find, too. There are always other friendly travelers on the road. There’s a freedom and joy in traveling alone that many people overlook.

As a Caribbean travel expert, what places and experiences stick out to you the most?

The region’s lesser-known beaches are a big draw. I love Bambarra Beach in Turks and Caicos, Jamaica’s Frenchman’s Cove, and Little Bay on Anguilla. I could be happily cast away on any of them!

Frenchman's Cove, Jamaica
Musicians in Grenada
Turks and Caicos
Clockwise from left: Jamaica's Frenchman's Cove; Musicians in Grenada; Turks and Caicos

That said, it’s the Caribbean people and their stories that make me return again and again. I’ve met Sandy Claxton, who planted the now-Instagram-famous fig tree at Nevis’ Montpelier Plantation when he was just 13 years old. I’ve followed Simon Green on a fascinating hike through Grenada’s Grand Etang National Park and Forest Reserve. I’ve also spent time with Barbara Jane Moore, an expert guide to the blue holes of South Andros in the Bahamas.

Now you’ve got us dreaming of the islands! Do you have any tips for women looking to travel solo, maybe even for the first time?

Two words: Do it! If you’re timid, start with a staycation. You’d be surprised at the interesting local experiences you can have when you look at your hometown from a visitor’s perspective. Plus, you won’t be far from home if things go awry (they probably won’t).

I also encourage women to take that “big trip” now rather than later. If you have the time and the resources, don’t let the lack of a travel companion hold you back. If there’s anything this past year has taught us, it’s that nothing is guaranteed and we have less time than we think. So go now.

We honestly can’t wait. Are there any specific places you’re hoping to visit after the pandemic is over?

I’m eager to explore a few long-haul destinations that are still on my personal travel list. I’d love to finally set foot in Africa, spend time in New Zealand, and take a multi-day train trip aboard the Rocky Mountaineer luxury train.

Lindsey Olander
Lindsey Olander is a writer, editor, and insatiable traveler based in New York whose words have been published by Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Departures, and others. Read more of her work at lindseytravels.com or follow her adventures on Instagram @lindseytravels.